Walgreens Urges Flu Shots Be Administered Early This Year, Offers Walgreens Cash Rewards for Vaccinations

Experts predict a bad flu season in the US in 2022, noting children and pregnant women in their third trimester are recommended to be the first in line for flu vaccination.

A large rise in flu cases in Australia has led Walgreens to offer a $5 Walgreens Cash incentive to individuals vaccinated at any Walgreens during August through December 2022 (excluding September) and a $10 Walgreens Cash reward during the month of September 2022.1

Historically, the influenza (flu) season in the Southern Hemisphere predicts the flu season that will likely hit the United States in the fall. According to Australia’s Department of Health and Aged Care, Australia had its worst flu season in 5 years in 2022, leading experts in the United States to grow concerned regarding the potential impact of a “twindemic” in the second half of 2022, with a coinciding bad flu season and a winter surge of COVID-19.2,3

In Australia, the flu had the greatest impact on children aged 5 to 9 years, followed by children aged 4 years and younger and teenagers.2 However, experts from the CDC noted that trends that occur in the Southern Hemisphere are not always predictive of exactly what will occur during the flu season in the United States.2

“We watch all of the Southern Hemisphere countries very closely, hoping that we get some sort of insight, but it’s not perfect by any means,” said Alicia Fry, MD, MPH, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the CDC, in a press release.2

Additionally, experts are unsure if the flu vaccine used in Australia for its flu season will work effectively for strains present in the United States. To prepare for the possibility of certain flu vaccines being more effective than others for the strains in the United States, pharmacies such as Walgreens are offering flu shots against 4 different strains of the flu.2 Specifically, Walgreens is encouraging appointments for vaccination against these strains among children aged 3 years and older.1 Further, children, and especially pregnant women in their third trimester, are recommended to be the first in line for a shot in the arm.2

Experts at the CDC estimate that 41 million people get the flu every year. Of these 41 million, they estimate that approximately 52,000 will die.2

Robert Citronberg, the executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention for Advocate Aurora Health, explained that much of the damage done from the flu that can lead to mortality in humans has to do with the lungs.2 Since COVID-19 and influenza can both cause significant and severe lung inflammation, Citronberg notes that the “twindemic” facing the United States this year has the potential to leave individuals more susceptible to other infections and pathogens.2

“If we get a significantly fewer number of people getting vaccinated this year for flu, then it could really impact how many cases we have and the severity of those cases,” Citronberg said in a press release.2

During the 2020-2021 flu season, the CDC reported that approximately 50% of the US population got a flu shot.2 While flu vaccination may not prevent flu infection entirely, data have shown that a lack of flu vaccination can increase risks of flu severity, hospitalizations, and death.2

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and those around us from flu and other vaccine preventable illnesses,” Anita Patel, PharmD, vice president, pharmacy services development, Walgreens, said in the press release. “To help save families a trip, Walgreens pharmacists are co-administering flu shots and other recommended vaccines during a single visit.”1

References

  1. Flu Shots Are Now Available at Walgreens Nationwide for Everyone Aged 3 and Up. Deerfield, IL: Walgreens; Aug 15, 2022. Accessed on Aug 15, 2022. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220815005221/en/
  2. Australia’s bad flu season is a warning for the U.S. this year. CNBC website. Aug 4, 2022. Accessed on Aug 15, 2022. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/05/australias-bad-flu-season-is-a-warning-for-the-us-this-year.html
  3. The Department of Health and Aged Care. Australian Influenza Surveillance Report and Activity Updates. Department of Health and Aged Care website. Updated Aug 5, 2022. Accessed on Aug 15, 2022. https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-surveil-ozflu-flucurr.htm